When you come across an open position that seems like the perfect fit for you, it can be tempting to submit your resume and cover letter as fast as humanly possible. The quicker you get your application materials in front of the hiring manager, the better—right?
Actually, it’s not. Sure, you don’t want to drag your feet, but moving too quickly isn’t any better.
If you submit your cover letter and resume within minutes or even an hour of a position opening, it means one of two things: You knew the position would be opening and you were ready for it, or you didn’t spend much time preparing your documents before submitting them. If it’s the former, that’s great! You’re ahead of the game. If it’s the latter, however, you’ve likely just labeled yourself a mediocre candidate.
Why? Your application materials are your first (and sometimes, only) chance to demonstrate your professionalism, enthusiasm, and attention to detail—or lack thereof. And these traits show up in the details. Immediately, hiring managers can tell whether you’ve put the necessary amount of work into the application. Here are a few of the most common pitfalls that applicants who rush their application fall into.
1. You Fail to Seek Out the Right Contact
Is your cover letter addressed to a specific person or the dreaded “Whom It May Concern?”
When I receive a letter that starts with, “Dear Ms. Thetford,” I immediately recognize that the applicant cares about details and thoroughness. It tells me that the candidate is excited enough about the opportunity to seek out my name and email address.
On the other hand, “To Whom it May Concern” tells me something very different—that the applicant didn’t read the entire job posting, didn’t take the time to do the proper research, or, even worse, sent me a generic cover letter that also went to 30 other employers. Overall, it demonstrates very little effort and minimal interest.
If the hiring manager’s name and email address aren’t listed in the job posting, it’s going to take some time and effort on your part to determine the appropriate recipient (here are some tips to make it easier). But it’s worth it: Taking that time can make the difference between snagging an interview or not.
2. You Fail to Catch Those Little Errors
It’s also important to proofread your documents. There’s nothing that says “rush job” like misspelling a common word or completely overlooking punctuation.
Of course, editing your own documents will only get you so far. Remember those English papers you had to write in school? Even after reading and revising multiple times, the teacher found at least one error you had somehow overlooked.
The same can happen with your cover letter and resume. After a while, you won’t see even blatant errors because you’re simply too familiar with the documents. That means you need to have another set of eyes—consider asking a friend or mentor—proof your documents.
3. You Fail to Customize Your Resume
Does your resume highlight the qualifications that are most relevant to the position you’re applying for, or are your bullet points unchanged from the last dozen times you’ve submitted it?
If you’ve carefully reviewed the job posting and, if possible, spoken to someone at the company to better understand what the business needs, you should be able to customize your resume to highlight your best and most relevant qualifications and accomplishments.
It takes time to rearrange your resume content and tweak the wording of each section, but when your experience and skills clearly align with the job description, the hiring manager will immediately see that you are a good fit—and will be much more likely to invite you to interview.
To make sure you’re on the right track, consider enlisting someone to read your cover letter and resume alongside the job posting. He or she can provide an outsider’s perspective about things you might highlight, reword, or emphasize to make you come across as the strongest candidate possible.
4. You Fail to Go the Extra Mile to Stand Out
Finally, consider if there are additional documents you could submit or steps you could take before sending in only the traditional cover letter and resume.
Depending on the role, it might benefit you to include samples, training verifications, or other relevant items that showcase your qualifications. You may even decide to go the extra mile and submit something that wasn’t requested, but could show your passion and unique qualifications—like an unsolicited project proposal.
You need to give yourself time to consider what, if anything, might help your case and to prepare those documents to showcase you at your best.
Putting your best foot forward with a potential employer should never be done in haste. Sure, you might have a great cover letter and resume. But unless you have updated those documents for the specific job you’re applying for, then they aren’t great for that particular job.
Convincing an employer that you have the qualifications, passion, and interest to be a stellar team member takes time and effort. But if you really want the job, it’s time well spent.